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Taking a stab at predicting every game of NC State’s 2018 season

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Please don’t file these away for later, thanks.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at North Carolina State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The best part about preseason is everyone is optimistic. And why shouldn’t they be? They’re team is undefeated. I took one last crack at predicting NC State’s season before it gets underway. They’re such a difficult team to read because of the key contributors lost but at the same time they return plenty of talent and production. If the new defense gels and they protect home field then the schedule sets up to where double digit wins is not out of the question. But if the defense struggles and injuries occur to key players, that number could dip down to 6 or 7. I’ve got them at 9-3 (6-2). Here is a game by game breakdown of how the season will go (don’t take any screen shots because most everything will end up being wrong):

Sept. 1: vs James Madison

Record last year: 14-1 (8-0)

Prediction: Win, 38-21

The Dukes come to Raleigh fresh off back-to-back 14-1 seasons, appearing in the FCS National Championship both years. This team is headlined by the 3-headed monster at RB with Marcus Marshall, Trai Sharp, and Cardon Johnson along with two stellar senior cornerbacks. Some Pack fans are really worried about this game, but I don’t see JMU being able to slow down NC State. On a hot and humid day, an FCS school just won’t have the depth to keep up.

Sept. 8: vs Georgia State

Record last year: 7-5 (5-3)

Prediction: Win, 48-14

This is an incredibly young team with 17 freshmen on the initial 2-deep depth chart. They’re breaking in a new starting QB and don’t have too many playmakers outside of WR Penny White. Should be a nice tune up before the big matchup with WVU.

Sept. 15: vs #17 West Virginia

Record last year: 7-6 (5-4)

Prediction: Loss, 41-35

Potentially one the best QB matchups all year will take place between Will Grier and Ryan Finley. Both teams are strikingly similar with explosive offenses but question marks on defense. The WR corps is one of the few that can match up with NC State led by Gary Jennings Jr (97 rec, 1076 yds) and David Sills V (980 yds, 18 touchdowns). State will probably still be working through some kinks with their new look defense at this point. I think WVU will be playing with a ton of confidence after stomping Tennessee in week 1 and wins this in a shootout. That being said, it would not surprise me to see NC State win if they can get some key stops.

Sept. 22: @ Marshall

Record last year: 8-5 (4-4)

Prediction: Win, 31-23

Marshall gave NC State all they could handle for much of the game last year. Returning for the Thundering Herd is WR Tyre Brady, who broke the Carter-Finley single game receiving record with 248 yds. However, QB Chase Litton is in the NFL now and was a huge part of the team’s success the last few years. This has the potential to be a weird game on the road, but I trust an elite 6th year quarterback to pull this one out to get back on track heading into conference play.

Sept. 29: vs Virginia

Record last year: 6-7 (3-5)

Prediction: Win, 34-13

NC State really lucked out with their crossover games, drawing probably the two worst teams in the ACC (obviously we get UNC every year). Virginia snuck into a bowl game last year due to feasting on a weak first half of the schedule, but loses their starting QB. Earlier this summer, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said “I believe we have 27 ACC-caliber football players on our roster”. That’s alarming considering teams are allotted 85 scholarships. Don’t lose sleep over this one, especially at home.

Oct. 6: vs Boston College

Record last year: 7-6 (4-4)

Prediction: Win, 28-20

Since 2010, Boston College is 4-4 against the Wolfpack but 18-38 against the rest of the ACC. They’ve been a thorn in NC State’s side. But not this year. Nope. Not gonna happen. Well I don’t know maybe. AJ Dillon is an absolute stud, and he’s going to get his. The defense returns a ton of experience and will be stingy as usual with Connor Strachan back from injury, who led the team in tackles two years ago. But where NC State has the edge, other than being at home, is in the passing game where BC hasn’t had consistent QB play for a while. If the Wolfpack can jump out to an early lead and make Anthony Brown beat them, they should be able to hold them off. This is the beginning of a gauntlet of a schedule in which BC probably won’t find themselves favored until their final game against Syracuse.

Oct. 20: @ #2 Clemson

Record last year: 12-2 (7-1)

Prediction: Loss, 31-21

At this point Clemson is a well-oiled machine that doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. NC State has shown they can play with them the last couple years, but they should’ve taken advantage of their opportunity two years ago because I don’t see them stealing one in Death Valley. This Clemson team just returns too much talent, including 7 starters on offense and one of the best D-lines ever assembled in college. If Kelly Bryant struggles early in the year and no. 1 overall recruit Trevor Lawrence is indeed an upgrade, Clemson will be even better than last year. Yikes.

Oct. 27: @ Syracuse

Record last year: 4-8 (2-6)

Prediction: Win, 35-27

Eric Dungey is the 2nd best QB in the conference behind Finley in my opinion. His only problem has always been staying healthy, partly due to playing behind a terrible offensive line. He loses his top two wideouts from last year in Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips. The defense loses its two star linebackers from a defense that was already worst in the conference (32.2 ppg). The Wolfpack is simply the more talented team here and it’s not all that close. Syracuse has shown in the past they can sneak up on teams in the Carrier Dome, a la Clemson last year and VT in 2016, and I agree this is a bad place on the schedule after another loss to Clemson. But I think talent wins out, and much like the Marshall game I put my money on Finley to take care of business.

Nov. 3: vs #19 Florida State

Record last year: 7-6 (3-5)

Prediction: Win, 38-30

Florida State is the wild card in the conference this year. Willie Taggart takes over a team with an abundance of talent that simply imploded last year from the beginning. He’s got a lot to work with on offense in Deondre Francois, Cam Akers, Jacques Patrick, and Nyqwan Murray. The defense will be a work in progress with only 3 returning starters, but there is a ton of young talent with guys like DE Brian Burns and DT Marvin Wilson. If Taggart is able to push the right buttons and they can put it all together, this is potentially a top 10 team. Regardless, NC State winning is just a gut pick for me. This game could have huge implications and playing in Raleigh always seems to be a pain for FSU.

Nov. 8: vs Wake Forest

Record last year: 8-5 (4-4)

Prediction: Win, 40-27

Dave Clawson has done a tremendous job building this program back up, and the Deacs should have another solid team this year. But John Wolford is gone and I’m not sold on Kendall Hinton yet, who has a three-game suspension to start off. When picking games in this series, always bet on the home team as they’ve won 15 of 18 in this century. Not only is this is a home game… it’s a Thursday night game. Everyone saw last year how Carter-Finley gets for Thursday night games. Ryan Finley has a big first half and State puts it in cruise control in the second (much like 2 years ago).

Nov. 17: @ Louisville

Record last year: 8-5 (4-4)

Prediction: Loss, 34-28

This game scares the crap out of me. I can already envision it: a chilly noon kickoff where the Pack starts sluggish, grinds their way back, but just can’t get out of their own way. NC State has struggled here in the past, and this could be a scenario where Louisville is playing for a bowl berth. A lot will depend on how Jawon Pass plays as Lamar Jackson’s replacement this year. He’s a big guy with potential and returns a ton of weapons on the outside in Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Seth Dawkins. This loss will probably sting.

Nov. 24: @ North Carolina

Record last year: 3-9 (1-7)

Prediction: Win, 38-20

Yeah I know it’s a rivalry game so you “throw records out the window”, but this is just not a good football team. And it’s not like the crowd will be much of a factor either. They’ve got plenty of talent at the skill positions but will continue to struggle until they get consistent QB/OL play and a defense that can stop the run. Could this be Fedora’s last game in Chapel Hill?